As most of you know, I am a full-time writer. As most of you probably don’t know, I am only a full-time writer because my husband has a well-paying job. Contrary to popular opinion, most writers aren’t rich. In fact, only about 30% of all writers support themselves through writing alone. Most have other jobs to pay the bills and writing is the thing they do because they cannot not do it.
I have written since I was six years old. My life took many unexpected turns, but writing has always been the thing I go back to, because when a story is in my mind, demanding to get out, I can’t not write it. But, that process isn’t quick or painless. Every book I write is like a battle I struggle to win.
The truth is, I actually don’t love writing. I love having written (past tense). I love typing “The End”. I love the emails I get from people telling me that one of my books helped them through a bad time, or that my stories managed to sweep them up and transport themselves to a world they loved visiting. I love going back to reread something that I created and getting caught up in my own story. But the actual process of putting words on a blank page? Um, no, don’t love it. Pretty much hate it, in fact (except for those rare hours when I’m “in the zone” and the words are flowing).
Because every book I write is such a long, painful labor–longer and more painful than my three pregnancies and childbirths–you can imagine how horrible it feels to see that work being taken by strangers, uploaded to the internet, and distributed for free without my consent. I spend months and even years working on a single book–months or years I could have spent earning a salary to pay for my children’s college and supplementing my family’s income–so the pirating of my work feels like a brutal kick in the gut.
I am a strong proponent of copyright protection and artists’ rights, and I am a fierce opponent of digital piracy of anyone’s work. Why? Because there’s something else I love as much as I love getting great reader mail and entertaining people with my books: I love getting paid for the work that I do. I’m pretty sure the rest of you love getting paid for your work, too.
“Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up fines and federal imprisonment.
~ Federal Bureau of Investigation
A Few Facts about Publishing
- Being a Best-seller doesn’t make you a millionaire. The truth is that hitting the USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly, or New York Times only represents ONE WEEK of book sales. Unless you stay on those lists for many weeks, you are not rolling in dough. Also, except for ebook sales, it takes years to receive all your royalties, because publishers hold back 20-50% of royalties in reserve against future returns, and only release those reserves over time. But frankly, even if a writer is a millionare, that still doesn’t give anyone the right to rip them off.
- The average paperback royalty is 63 cents or less. Most authors of single-title genre fiction receive around an 8% royalty on a mass market paperback’s retail price of between $6.99 and $8.99. That means the author receives between 56 and 72 cents per book sold. Some publishers pay as little as 4% per copy sold. That’s 28 cents on a $5.99 book! That means authors have to sell multiple tens of thousands of new books in order to even even approach a living wage. And that’s why sales of new books are so important–every sale counts, because you have to have sell so many new books in order to make enough money to live on.
- Most bookstores buy to net. What that means is that each time an author has a new book, bookstores check to see how many copies of that author’s previous books sold. The bookstore then buys only that number of copies. Since most readers won’t buy a book they don’t see on the shelves, they might miss the author’s new book entirely. I can tell you, most readers either don’t know they can ask the bookstore to order a book for them, or don’t bother to do so. That means, once a store’s stock is sold out, they don’t reorder. Without books on the shelves, new readers are less likely to discover an author’s work. Without new readers, bookstores will order fewer copies, which means the publisher will print fewer copies, and that author’s contract might not be renewed.
“Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney’s fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.”
~ The US Copyright Office
A Few Facts About Piracy
Here are a few facts I’ve gleaned from my research on the subject of piracy
- US BitTorrent Traffic up 40% from 2011 - most of that increase is due to pirated content
- Recorded Music revenue is down 64% since 1999 – And no thinking person can say that’s because people are less interested in consuming music. I don’t have the statistics on books, but I can tell you that overall book sales have been trending downward for a long, long time time. The initial decline started when competing entertainment mediums (video games, personal computing) exploded. Book piracy is making a bad situation even worse.
- In 2010, approximately 1.5 to 3 million people searched for free, pirated ebooks per day ~ Attributor
- Pirating is NOT a victimless crime. Pirating books doesn’t just rob authors of royalties, it also robs publishing companies of the revenue they use to buy new works, pay salaries to their employees, buy office supplies, buy marketing, pay their utilities, etc. Hey Mr. and Ms. Pirate, would you like it if we all started cutting into the revenue your employer uses to fund your paycheck? Would you like it if we forced you to take a pay cut so we could enjoy your company’s products and service for free?
- The owners of pirate sites (even “free download” and P2P sharing sites) are making tons of money off advertisting revenue on their pirate sites. So they get rich ripping off my work and the works of others. Is it any wonder why artists are mad?
Stupid Things Pirates Say
- Artist/Authors should just be grateful people want to listen to their music/read their books. The truth is most of us are grateful, but being grateful for having an audience doesn’t eradicate our need to pay our bills or our right to be compensated for our work. I am not a slave. I don’t appreciate pirates treating me like one. Many artists and authors do offer either samples of their work for free–either whole or in part–but that is their choice, not the pirate’s choice.
- Digital Piracy isn’t theft. The Supreme Court said so. That’s legal word-weaseling meant to make people think digital piracy isn’t a crime. But the fact remains that copyright infringement (piracy) is ILLEGAL and a prosecutable offense.
- Digital Piracy doesn’t hurt anyone. Tell that to Shiloh Walker who discontinued three series due to the mass pirating of her work. Tell that to authors who don’t get new contracts with publishers because of weak sales. Tell that to the secretaries, shipping clerks, accountants who lost their job because their publisher went out of business. Publishers don’t give a damn how many illegal, unpurchased copies of a book are being read. They care how many new copies are sold, period. Because selling new copies of a published work is how publishers (and authors) make money.
- Pirating is no different than checking a book out at a library or loaning a book to a friend. Absolutely not true. And here’s why. (1) A physical copy of a book can only be read by one person at a time. A digital copy can be read by an unlimited number of people at the same time. Many is the time that I was unwilling to wait to borrow a copy of a much-awaited book from a friend or the library. My hankering to have that book NOW compelled me to go out and buy my own copy – thus contributing to the author’s royalty check and her publishing sales figures. (2) A physical copy wears out over time. A digital copy lasts forever. So, not only does pirating rob the author of immediate sales, it makes her work available without compensation for all eternity.
- I shouldn’t have to pay for a book I didn’t like. Then don’t read it in the first place. Have a friend loan you a legitimate, legal copy. How would you like it if your employer told you, “I’ll decide whether or not to pay you after you do the work for me.” Would you work for a jerk like that? I don’t think so. So why would you expect an author/artist to work for you under such egregious terms? If you buy a burger, consume the whole thing, then demand a refund, guess what? The restaurant will tell you to go pound sand. You bought the work. You consumed the work. The maker of that work is entitled to compensation. If you take one bite of that burger, find it revolting, and demand a refund, odds are you’ll get one. That’s why so many authors (me included) offer free excerpts of our work on our websites. You can read a few chapters, and make an informed decision about whether or not you want to plunk down your money to read the rest. I have no problem with that, and neither do most authors and artists.
- Most people who read a pirated copy go out and buy it if they liked it. There is no reliable evidence to substantiate this and plenty of decreasing sales in content-publishing industries to indicate that exactly the opposite is true. I have heard from some authors who say their sales have increased after pirating of their works–and you know, if they don’t mind, that’s their choice. I, however, do mind. Piracy has not increased my sales by so much as a single unit.
- Pirates aren’t going to buy it anyway, so it’s not a lost sale. Um, right. Go back and read the ridiculous claim directly above this one. So, are they going to buy it or not? Both sides can’t be right. Besides, I’ve been on pirate sites and had some woman post a heartfelt thanks to the pirate who uploaded my latest release–the same day it came out, by the way–because she was “so glad she didn’t have to buy it now”. Was that a lost sale? It absolutely was. I have befriended a person on facebook and my blog, engaged in numerous conversations, awarded free books and goodies to that person during my book release countdowns, only to find that same person out pirating my book. Wow. What a jackwagon, to use my son’s favorite term.
- I’m helping the author by pirating her book. It’s free advertising for her. Hahahaha! If someone really wants to help an author, they can buy her book new, then write a great review and post that review all over the net. That way she gets paid, her publisher gets paid, and the book gets promoted.
“Many in your generation are willing to pay a little extra to buy “fair trade” coffee that insures the workers that harvested the coffee were paid fairly. Many in your generation will pay a little more to buy clothing and shoes from manufacturers that certify they don’t use sweatshops. Many in your generation pressured Apple to examine working conditions at Foxconn in China. Your generation is largely responsible for the recent cultural changes that has given more equality to same sex couples. On nearly every count your generation is much more ethical and fair than my generation. Except for one thing. Artist rights.”
~ David Lowery, from his “Letter to Emily White @ NPR”
Excellent Articles / Posts
Rather than recreate the wheel in support of artists’ rights, here are a number of excellent articles on the subject
- David Lowery ~ “Letter to Emily White at NPR All Songs Considered” Although directly addressing music piracy, this is one of the best anti-piracy articles I’ve read in a long, long time. No wonder it went viral.
- Shiloh Walker ~ “Looking for free Shiloh Walker ebooks?”
- Jessie Haines ~ “My Thoughts on Ebook Piracy”
- Jennifer Armentrout ~ “Piracy WTFery”
- The Trichordist ~ “Free Culture’s Epic Fail”
- New York Times ~ “The Perpetual War: Pirates and Creators”
- The Trichordist ~ “Artists, Know Thy Enemy – Who’s Ripping You Off and How…” This article may be geared towards musicians, but it’s equally true for novelists.
Sites Worth Visting
- The Trichordist ~ Artists for an Ethical and Sustainable Internet
- The Ethical Fan ~ Defending Content Creators’ Rights
- The Copyright Alliance
How You Can Fight Piracy
- Report infringements to the copyright owner. If you come across an infringing site, let the author/artist or their publisher know where their work is being pirated. Include a link or screen capture of the offending site.
- Speak out in support of creators’ rights. When pirates start ranting against copyright and artists’ rights, call them out for the self-serving troglodytes they are. Artists have the right to be compensated for their work. It isn’t cool to rip off creative folks.
- Educate yourself, your children, your friends. If you see them pirating, for heaven’s sake, say something! Tell them it’s wrong. Send them here or to any of the articles and sites I’ve listed so they can educate themselves about copyright infringement.
- Contact your congressmen, the president, the vice-president. Speak out in support of artists’ rights. Let your elected officials know you do not support copyright infringment. Let them know that you do support copyright protections that will enable artists and athors to keep producing the works you love.
Support the authors and artists you love. Join the fight against digital piracy today.